Bay Area breweries turn production toward making a different kind of alcohol: hand sanitizer

Beers taps are going dry at some breweries across the country and the service industry has been dealt a possibly devastating blow from the COVID-19 pandemic. Since all bars in the state of Florida are closed, bartenders, DJs, and bouncers are out of a job for the foreseeable future.

Mike Harting, the owner of 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg, said he had to lay off half of his staff.

"Over the next 30 days we will lose 80%-95% of our current revenue," Harting explained.  

Motorworks Brewing Marketing Director Barry Elwonger told FOX 13, "Our entire industry just got shut down."

But at other breweries, production is still up running because they are getting creative to help with the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of brewing beer, some breweries are now using alcohol to make hand sanitizer they plan to distribute for free.

At Eight Oaks Distillery in Pennsylvania, production for hand sanitizer has been underway since Monday. Their creative approach is now catching on at other breweries including two in the Tampa Bay area.

"It’s incumbent upon us to do what we can and that's what we can," 3 Daughters Brewing owner Mike Harting said.

At 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg, their biochemist on staff is now using her knowledge to make hand sanitizer instead.

Motorworks Brewing in Bradenton is doing the same thing.

"We were able to gather some aloe and what not and the other required ingredients and we were able to put together a batch of hand sanitizer that we are going to have available for the public at the end of the week," Elwonger said.

Motorworks Brewing is still in the early stages of production, but at 3 Daughters, hand sanitizer is already being packaged up.. Four-ounce bottles were going to become available for free starting Thursday, but due to overwhelming demand, 3 Daughters is asking people not to show up at the brewery for pick-up. Instead, they will donate all the products and future products through charity organizations in the area. 

"Please allow us the opportunity to distribute all of this responsibly and in accordance with state and federal guidelines," according to a brewery statement. "We are sorry, in these unprecedented times, we never expected this incredible response, and, as is our mission, we always want to do what is in our community’s best interest."

Motorworks hopes to donate some of their hand sanitizer to the most vulnerable like nurses and first responders.

"We were thinking that is the best way we can give back and beat this thing and get back to normal life,” Elwonger said. This is something. No one can find hand sanitizer right now. It's one of the biggest things right now and we just want to make sure people have the necessary things so everyone can stay safe." 

RELATED Florida closing bars, nightclubs for 30 days, issues sweeping changes for restaurants, beaches

Meanwhile, empty bar stools and silent dance floors mean DJ Mike Sklarz is living off of savings.

“I’m calling my mortgage company, my loans, my credit cards to see if we can do deferred payments for the next 30 days,” Sklarz said.

Sklarz used to have about five gigs a week, but now he doesn’t have any. Governor Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that all bars and nightclubs in the state would close to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

“It’s day-to-day,” Sklarz explained. “I had a little bit in savings. You can’t prepare for something like this going from 100% pay down to nothing at all.”

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know


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